With cleanup ahead, Jacksonville mulls development deal for Talleyrand Superfund site
August 02, 2021
After sitting idle more than 40 years, a badly polluted part of Jacksonville’s Talleyrand waterfront could become a working dock again once a long-awaited cleanup is finished.
The former site of a Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. factory and warehouse has become the subject of a development agreement city officials are pursuing to reopen the property at 1611 Talleyrand Ave. The agreement, which could be introduced to Jacksonville’s City Council Aug. 10, would offer CertainTeed Gypsum Operating Co. LLC up to $3.4 million in property-tax breaks if it invests at least $55 million and creates at least 20 jobs by the end of 2024. The agreement “seems like a pretty good deal,” city Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes said before the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee signed off last week.
There’s no guarantee that CertainTeed will take the deal if it’s offered. The company is considering other Southern port cities, too, but nowhere else in Florida, the city’s economic development head, Kirk Wendland, told Hughes in a July 21 memo. If the deal goes through, CertainTeed, which makes building products and owns a wallboard plant in Palatka, projects hiring 32 people to work full-time as dockworkers and truck drivers for a “cross-dock” operation that would receive bulk materials by ship and forward them by truck. But that operation can only happen after environmental cleanup work that was once projected to cost $69 million is completed.
Toxic substances ranging from arsenic to toxaphene had remained in the ground after pesticides, fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals there were carried off when Kerr-McGee closed in 1978. State scientists said in 2003 that the remaining pollution posed real health threats and in 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the site to its National Priorities List of places needing cleanup under the agency’s Superfund program. That work started modestly last year, with crews clearing overgrown plants, removing foundations of long-ago demolished buildings and setting up barriers to keep stormwater from flowing offsite. This year, some soil on neighboring property that was polluted by tainted groundwater has been dug up and moved onto the Superfund site.
By early next year, cleanup plans call for more extensive work to begin, said Christine Amrhine, communications director for the Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust LLC, a company that was court-appointed as a trustee to own hundreds of polluted former Kerr-McGee sites in 31 states, remediate the damage there and get the land back into productive use. Steps for the work at Talleyrand — where pesticides and fertilizer had been stockpiled as early as 1893, long before Kerr-McGee owned it — revolve around isolating pollution in the ground away from any people and keeping polluted groundwater from leaving the property.
To do that, the EPA made plans to “stabilize” the most polluted areas by mixing in cement-like hardening material and setting wells and pumps to catch any water that seeps out, headed for the river. To make the site safe to walk on, Greenfield designed a “cap” that is supposed to cover the polluted land with a clay liner and drainage net, then top that with 18 inches of fill and another six inches of topsoil where plants can take root and prevent erosion. The pumps are supposed to pull water from the wells to be treated until it’s safe and will stay in place.
To keep pollutants from seeping into the river, a bulkhead will be built that will also cover contaminated sediment that seeped into the river. That’s normally not an option because the river bottom is considered state property, but in 2019 Greenfield got title to 2.8 acres of underwater land by swapping the state 14 acres of land the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wanted for conservation on Fort George Island.
The cap, the new soil on top and the bulkhead should all be installed by sometime in 2023 — 45 years after Kerr-McGee closed its operation. The bulkhead has been designed to handle higher sea levels and other projections tied to climate change, Amrhine said by email. If CertainTeed takes Jacksonville’s deal, the company has told city officials it could decide later to set up a manufacturing operation on Talleyrand, Wendland wrote in his July 21 memo. But he added that possibility “is heavily dependent on a successful site remediation and financial feasibility,” and would only have to be thought about after the cross-dock operation is running.
Source: Steve Paterson - Florida Times-Union